Emma Raducanu is out of the Australian Open after struggling physically and with a stomach bug in the deciding set of her marathon second-round defeat to Yafan Wang, the World 94. After levelling the match at a set all and having made an impressive fight-back, Raducanu was forced to take a medical timeout early in the third. The 21-year-old had to have her blood pressure taken after appearing to be light-headed and struggling with her breathing.
Raducanu was playing in just her fourth match in eight months and was making her grand slam return at the Australian Open after missing the majority of last season following surgeries on both of her wrists and left ankle. The former US Open champion improved after a difficult opening set, where she struggled to adjust to the challenging conditions and swirling wind, but faded early on in the third set as the match reached the two-hour mark.
Raducanu battled on, showing considerable resilience as she threatened to break back but could not take any of her seven opportunities across a series of gruelling deuce games. Wang steadied on serve and closed out a 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory after almost three hours as Raducanu netted on a backhand close to the net on match point.
Raducanu was a break down at the start of the third set when her problems began, having won a demanding second set to haul herself level in the match. Raducanu appeared to be breathing heavily in between points, doubling over in exhaustion following a series of lengthy rallies. Despite still managing to produce winners off her forehand side, Raducanu was unable to find the break back after having a look at three chances and when Wang held to lead 2-0, she walked slowly to her bench to take a medical timeout. Raducanu, pale-faced and nauseous, wrapped her towel over her head as she received attention from the trainer and had her blood pressure taken by the medics courtside.
Yet there cannot and should not be any suggestions that Raducanu, whose physical struggles since winning the US Open have been well-documented, gave up the fight: Raducanu returned from the timeout and somehow played some of her best tennis of the match, showing remarkable resilience and grit to haul herself back from 0-40 down and prevent the double break. Raducanu then pressed to draw level in a marathon 12-minute game - that she could not do so was testament to Wang’s determined defence and the Chinese player’s sense of when to strike for the lines.
While Raducanu is still in the early stages of her comeback following a long absence from the tour last season, there will be a sense of frustration that her Australian Open run is over so soon after displaying an impressive level in the second set. While the challenging conditions were a factor in the opening set, with a stiff, left-to-right breeze affecting the majority of the early rallies and the Briton struggling to adapt, Raducanu managed to find some momentum, hitting her groundstrokes more confidently from inside the baseline.
With the gusts dropping, Raducanu faced two break points for a 0-3 deficit but found her best serving of the match to keep Wang in sight. It sparked a fightback as Raducanu produced her strongest hitting of the match to force a succession of break points on Wang’s next service game. Despite poor misses on clear chances on the backhand return and forehand up the line, Raducanu remained committed to her attacking instincts and was rewarded as she eventually breached Wang’s defence with the forehand winner crosscourt.
The settled conditions allowed for both players to find a better level midway through the second set: Raducanu was denied a break by a stunning Wang winner crosscourt, but Raducanu continued to attack. She took the break on the subsequent game behind a series of vicious forehand attacks, producing far cleaner hitting from the back of the court to demolish Wang’s defences. From 0-40 up, Raducanu clinched a draining 24-shot rally on the third break point behind another excellent forehand winner.
The resilient Wang forced Raducanu to dig deep and produce her own resistance as the second set reached a thrilling conclusion. Raducanu stood with two set points but Wang timed her aggressive play to save both and force the break back. Instead, it only delayed Raducanu striking level as she continued to deliver clean, heavy hitting and added a couple of wonderful angles on her backhand side. Eventually, Wang buckled and Raducanu hauled herself level, having strung together an impressive collection of 17 winners across the set, the majority from 0-2 down.
Raducanu was unable to continue her aggressive play consistently in the deciding set. While she was still able to show glimpses of her ability, Raducanu found it difficult to play two long points in succession and Wang played a sensible game to draw out the majority of the exchanges, leading to a succession of lengthy deuce games. The third set could have been a landslide after Raducanu faced 0-40 on serve and the double break following her medical timeout; it was not. Instead, Raducanu had looks at seven break-point chances but was not decisive enough. The physical issues explained why, yet there was still plenty to be encouraged about so soon into her comeback.